Michael's Column

Mueller cannot repeat Comey’s mistake

mm
Written by Michael Smerconish

As the investigation into the President and his team’s potential obstruction of justice labors on, many are asking by what date is it too close to the midterms for Special Prosecutor Mueller to release his report? My answer is none- let me explain.

The president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed that the special counsel hopes to finish the obstruction inquiry by September 1st because, according to the New York Times, “waiting any longer would risk improperly influencing voters in November’s midterm elections.” But subsequent reports suggest that Giuliani’s deadline was “made-up,” in an effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work.

Even if Giuliani wasn’t lying, I don’t think Mueller SHOULD take into consideration the election timeline. To do so would be to repeat James Comey’s mistake.  

You’ll remember that on July 5, 2016, former FBI director Comey held that unusual news conference about ending the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s email server. He acknowledged that the FBI did not normally make public its recommendations to prosecutors as to whether to bring criminal charges, but added that “given the importance of the matter, I think unusual transparency is in order.”

He then went on to editorialize that while Secretary Clinton and her colleagues had not intended to violate any laws, they were quote, “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” The news media and Trump’s campaign ran wild with Comey’s assessment.

Then October 28th, 11 days before the election, while early voting was well underway, Comey revealed to the Congress – knowing it would be revealed in the public domain- that he had reopened the Hillary investigation because of Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Comey, like the rest of us, was placing a bit too much stock in the prognostications of Nate Silver and others. Believing Hillary was about to be elected, Comey wanted to ensure that no one later believed he’d kept the matter silent so as to protect his future boss, especially as Donald Trump continued to repeat claims that the election was “rigged.”

So Comey overcompensated, just as he had done months prior with the public dressing down of someone who was not being indicted. Then, on November 6th, two days before the election, Comey informed Congress that the F.B.I. had seen the new e-mails and that the bureau had not changed its conclusion that Clinton should not face charges.

Two days later, Donald Trump was elected.

Americans had voted knowing that Hillary Clinton had been the focus of a federal probe, but not realizing that the Trump campaign was being investigated in connection with Russian meddling.  That conflicting scenario, as we all know now, was brought about by James Comey taking politics into consideration and overstepping his bounds as FBI director.

Robert Mueller should not make the same mistake.  Instead, he should finish the task expeditiously, and release his report whenever his work is concluded whether that is now, or come September, October, November.  Besides, Donald Trump’s name won’t be on the ballot!

 

About the author

mm

Michael Smerconish

Michael A. Smerconish is the host of The Michael Smerconish Program on SiriusXM Channel 124, the host of CNN’s “Smerconish” on Saturday mornings, newspaper columnist and author.